Title: Harbor Me
Author: Jaqueline Woodson
Published: August 28, 2018
Theme: Adversity and Bravery
Character Origin: Human
Book Type: Middle School | Pages: 192
Ages: 10-14 | Book Level: 4.1 | Lexile Measure: 630L
Synopsis: It all starts when six kids have to meet for a weekly chat–by themselves, with no adults to listen in. There, in the room they soon dub the ARTT Room (short for “A Room to Talk”), they discover it’s safe to talk about what’s bothering them–everything from Esteban’s father’s deportation and Haley’s father’s incarceration to Amari’s fears of racial profiling and Ashton’s adjustment to his changing family fortunes. When the six are together, they can express the feelings and fears they have to hide from the rest of the world. And together, they can grow braver and more ready for the rest of their lives.
This story couldn’t be more timely and appropriate as it reflects the current national climate. I can’t imagine it not being on a middle school AR list (as required reading). There is much more that connects us than separates us and Woodson makes these connections in this poignant narrative. Sadly, the life experiences of the characters are not uncommon and can be disruptive in the classroom.
My son and I read this book aloud and had interesting conversations every day. The text was presented in a way that made my son think about a variety of topics currently being discussed on the national stage. Woodson delivers a masterful and distinct voice in Harbor Me. The story shines a light on how a perceptive teacher can change the trajectory of a student’s life. We need more stories like these that reflect the culture, diversity, and adversity that are in our schools today.